In job seeker's market, tech looks to lure workers with high pay and promise of industry growth

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii isn't known as a mecca for high technology. But the state estimates there are 80,000 people in the tech and innovation industry here. And hundreds more want to apply.

That was evident Thursday night at the Hawaii Technology Development Corporations annual holiday tech job fair. Nearly 50 companies were at the fair -- double last year's number. Nearly all of them are hiring at a time when the state's unemployment rate is at record lows.

Some 400 people showed up to apply. A big lure is the higher pay.

"A recent report came out of DBEDT (the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism) that the average tech job runs $83,000 a year. And the average salary in Hawaii is $47,000 a year," said Robbie Melton, Executive Director and CEO of the HTDC.

Prospective applicants lined up for free professional head shots, a must-have for business and employment social networks like LinkedIn.

One of the companies with openings is Nalu Scientific LLC. "We're a bunch of electronics engineers and we're building high level or advanced instruments for the Department of Energy National Labs," said Isar Mostafanezhad.

He said Nalu Scientific has been growing since it was established three years ago, and had positions open. "Starting from 20 to 30 dollars an hour for interns, basically, depending on the level of qualification that they have. And then if they like us an we like them, it can turn into a full-time job starting at 85 to 90 thousand dollars a year."

The fair also is aimed at bringing former Hawaii residents back home. "We want to capture people coming home for the holidays to show them that there are interesting jobs here that pay well," said Melton.

College students also expressed surprise that there were companies in Hawaii that had tech openings available.

"I was expecting to have to go out and email a bunch of people on the mainland and work remotely, but there are actually offices here that do the kind of stuff that I'm going to school for and I aspire to do," said Honolulu Community College student Jake Pasternak.

Pasternak also got to meet someone who got his job from the fair.

"Dropped my resume off, got in touch with Navatek," said mechanical engineer Charlie Field. "That led to an internship while I was in grad school, and then that's been full-time employment for me for five years now."

Judging from the fair, the are more -- hundreds more -- who hope to follow in his footsteps.

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